Last Update 12/30/15


The Fantastic Four (2015)

I had heard this was pretty mediocre, but it doesn't quite rise to that level. The cast seems to have no enthusiasm for their characters at all, there is no sense of camaraderie, and the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. Why would the brains behind a major scientific project be doing their own welding? Why hasn't the man organizing the project shown his backers that there is definite proof of an accessible alternate world? In at least two instances, monitors in our world show the transport vehicle from  a distance in the alternate world. How is that possible since the cameras are mounted on the vehicle itself? Why is Sue Richards affected when she didn't travel to the other reality? Why would they leave Reed alone, unsupervised, to rewrite the code controlling their new shuttle when they know he is hostile to the project? Why did Doom pretend to be injured? Why did the military give in to the FF at the end, when they  had no reason to do so? We are told that humans can only live in the alternate world with special environmental suits, but later the foursome is able to breathe the air and move around just fine. The dialogue is stilted and uninteresting and the special effects aren't very special. Worst of all is that the movie is very slow moving and most of the time just boring. And did we really need the third version of their origin and battle with Victor Von Doom? Except that this isn't remotely the Doctor Doom from the comics. He's another character entirely, with different motives, different powers, and a different appearance.12/30/15

Hanky Panky (1982)

One of my favorite movies, a comedic action movie starring Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner. Someone has stolen sensitive defense information and Wilder innocently finds himself in the middle of a complex web of murder and espionage. The sequence when they are in a small airplane and the pilot drops dead is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in movies. Both actors are at their best in a chase that goes from New York City to Maine to the Southwest. Richard Widmark is excellent as chief thug. There is even a big explosion although action films were not nearly as violent and special effects laden in the 1980s as they are today. I've watched this at least a half dozen times and will watch it again. 12/27/15

A Christmas Horror Story (2015) 

Third and last of my Krampus movies. Krampus is the brother of Santa Claus and he comes for the bad kids, get it? This showed early signs of being not awful – good opening credits, nice soundtrack, good photography. William Shatner stars in this, so it had a decent budget, and the acting is actual competent. Shatner is a radio DJ who has great Christmas spirit and is looking forward to the holidays. Like too many movies, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of police procedure. At a murder scene, a uniformed officer would not be conducting the first walk through of the crime scene after the building was cleared, presumably, but before the bodies are examined or removed. There is a team of investigative teenage reporters who actually get more screen time than Shatner, and they are decent actors. They’re doing a story about a brutal unsolved crime from a few years earlier. The scares are standard but some of them are done quite well.  Meanwhile, at the North Pole Santa Claus is disturbed because his elves are turning into zombies.  The logic of the plot could have been better explained. Some of the children punished are good children, so they shouldn’t have been vulnerable to Krampus. The separate strains of the story don’t even seem to be connected. There are ghosts and trolls as well as Krampus. Not great but okay and the surprise ending was excellent. Interesting goof in the packaging – the disc and plastic cover list the title as above, but the cardboard sleeve that covers it at the point of sale indicates A Holiday Horror Story is the title. If this was an attempt to be politically correct, it doesn’t work because the story is most definitely about Christmas, not the holidays in general. 12/8/15

Krampus the Christmas Devil (2013)

My second Krampus movie is from a couple of years ago. It's slightly better than this year's Krampus, although that's not a high mark to exceed. This one relies more on not particularly impressive camera tricks rather than CGI. The sound is, if anything, even worse and the acting is only marginally better. The story line is equally uninspired - and only marginally more comprehensible. I would not have made it all the way through if I hadn't been too tired to substitute another movie. Funny how some of these crappy direct to video horror movies make other titles that I would have called bad now seem competent. 12/7/15

The Fifth Element (1998)

I hadn't watched this in a long time but I remembered that the science was hokey and the story rather silly. Basically, an evil force the size of a planet is about to destroy Earth. A mysterious alien race that has been involved on Earth since ancient times has created the fifth element, a superhuman played by Milla Jovovich, to protect us. Except that she only has one scene where she actually does any protecting. The power to repel the evil is somehow resident in four stones, which the evil is search for, along with a human minion. There are also a bunch of alien mercenaries who want to blow things up. Despite this nonsense, the movie is strangely appealing, and is particularly rich in memorable visuals including the megacity on Earth and a couple of scenes on a vacation planet. There is a good deal of shooting and blowing up and a relatively good deal of humor, much of it actually funny. 12/6/15

Krampus (2015)

Time for some Christmas horror movies to counteract the flood of banal Christmas music everywhere I go. The krampus is a legendary evil counterpart of Santa Claus that I hadn't realized is actually a part of Germanic mythology. Predictably, he punishes the bad kids. A young girl invokes him as her imaginary friend and he starts killing people right and left, but mostly off camera. This is an amateur film in every way. There really isn't any acting at all - the cast just recites lines. The sound quality is bad. The soundtrack is worse, so maybe that's a plus. The creature is CGI, but we don't see much of it, so that's probably a plus as well. The editing is awful - jumps from scene to scene, sometimes truncated awkwardly. The plot is staccato and disjointed, doesn't always make sense, and sometimes contradicts itself. Although they call the monster Krampus, he bears no relationship to the legend at all. A few plot elements are just head scratching. Why would the child psychologist be given access to the crime scene?  Why, after a perfectly ordinary conversation in which the girl asks questions, expresses curiosity, and provides answers to any question posed to her would the psychologist then say that she is traumatized, unresponsive, and locked up within herself? Why does she later look at an innocuous doll and describe it as scary? Some of the camera work is problematic - poor framing, poor tracking, poor composition. Don't waste your time. 12/4/15

Bones Season 4 (2009)

This season gets off to a rocky start. Zach, who is in an asylum after being convicted of murder, now announces that he didn’t do it in a very awkward attempt to rewrite the end of the previous season. The first episode involves the death of an author and someone didn’t do their homework because publishing doesn’t work as described here.  The next three episodes are pretty good, but the fifth is badly written. For one thing, a meth lab that had been confiscated three days earlier would not be blown up in a police training exercise because it would be physical evidence needed for the prosecution of the case. Even worse, the tension caused between Brennan and Booth is very contrived and her refusal to answer a simple question at a crucial point makes no sense except to keep the plot boiling. There are some ups and downs in the next few episodes. The episode where Bones and Booth go undercover in a carnival is dreadful. The mystery is minor and the story is so implausible it defies description. They would never have done it, they would not have been able to carry it off, they actually accomplish virtually nothing, and they both act incredibly stupid. The hockey episode is not much better and I disliked the ghostly intervention, which is repeated in the next when a real ghost helps Booth escape from a trap set by the Grave Digger, a serial killer. Brennan’s cold blooded personality is overdone a few times, particularly in the episode involving a pregnant volleyball team. A few rocky spots but otherwise a good season. 12/2/15

Smallville Season 7 (2008) 

The last season ended with the creation of Bizarro, Clark’s evil twin, and the arrest of Lex for supposedly murdering Lana. This latter plot development is insulting inept. There is no body, so there is no evidence that she is even dead, and even if there were, there is no evidence and no motive for him to have been responsible. This season starts with similar stupidity. Clark stops the flood from a crumbling dam by turning the advance wave to steam with his heat vision. But what about all the water behind it? Meanwhile Chloe has restored Lois to life with her previously unsuspected meteor power.  The introduction of Supergirl/Kara was not a plus and the special effects seem to have gotten cheaper rather than better. The quality of the acting began to slip as well, although part of that could be that the dialogue was increasingly corny, contradictory, and inept. The lack of a body is retroactively explained in Lana’s “death”. Lex had cloned Lana – for no particular reason and completely implausibly – and Lana stole it. Lex finally figures this out – although one wonders where he thought the clone had gone. This whole sequence is beyond laughable. We are also told that since Lana is legally dead, she can kill Lex and cannot be arrested and tried for the crime – which is absolute nonsense. (The writers also use the word “galaxy” to mean different things at different times.) And then Lex’s people are able to track down Kara based on his sketch of her, even though the sketch bears not the faintest resemblance to the actress playing the part. Episode 3, with Kara competing in a beauty contest, is remarkable only in that it made most of the earlier stupid episodes seem intelligent. The usual stupid illogic prevails. Chloe can’t be told that Lana is alive because Lana might be guilty of a crime, presumably misleading the police. Except that it’s not a crime and in any case there is no reason why Chloe should not be told. And Clark suddenly takes a stupid pill. And naturally an alien woman arriving on Earth would set as her first goal winning a beauty pageant. Nor would the police arrest someone just because she was accused by someone of theft, with no supporting evidence. Was this episode scripted by eight year olds? Apparently not because the rest of the season is just as badly written. The personal relationships are implausible and people are constantly acting out of character. Kara’s absence for several episodes was a plus.  The coarsening of Lana’s character anticipated the fact that this was her final season.  One episode involves a villain reading Kara’s memories, and conveniently people on Krypton speak English among themselves! The episode in which Lana gets superpowers is so absurdly bad I can’t even begin to describe it. The following, in which Clark gets a message from his mother, is about the same, and the actress playing the part is atrocious. It’s like this all season. The writers don’t understand what a clone is. At another point, Clark is looking for Chloe and it never occurs to him to try her cell phone – because, of course, that would spoil the plot. I could go on and on but I imagine the point is made. 12/1/15

Black River (2001)

A television movie based on a novelette by Dean R. Koontz. The protagonist arrives in the town of Black River, which initially seems to be perfectly normal, although there are video cameras in strange places and some of the residents act even more strangely. The premise - the town is controlled by a computer - falls apart pretty quickly. The police are in such open violation of the law that problems would have arisen long before our hero arrives. The voiceover is very annoying. The dialogue is intentionally oddball, but it also becomes very wearing very quickly. And when the architect arrives and never questions that the mayor knows so much about her, I just lost all sense of reality. Some of the actions taken by the computer are not physically possible. There is also a mysterious vehicle that prowls around a lot. This was watchable if you're not too picky, but a lot of the potential is squandered by poor execution.  11/29/15

Castle Season 2 (2010) 

First full season of the detective show featuring a writer/police detective combination. Beckett doesn’t want to reopen her mother’s investigation in the opening episodes, but it’s obvious that she’s going to change her mind. The second episode is particularly strong, with multiple reversals and surprises. An early episode about the murder of a rock singer was the first subpar episode, with several breaches of police procedure that just would not have taken place.  There’s an obvious formula – there are almost always at least two false solutions before the real one is uncovered. The relationship between the two leads is developed gradually and convincingly.  The two part story about the serial killer is very well done. A couple of below par episodes but generally this season was quite good and I look forward to the next. 11/26/15

Hidden (2015)  

A married couple and their young daughter have been living in a fallout shelter for almost a year after some sort of devastation happened on the surface. But they’re not alone. They hear noises from above, including heavy breathing, but it’s not clear if they know the source. And then one day they discover that they are not alone in the shelter, that something has been eating some of their food. They don’t appear to have any plan for leaving even though their food has almost been exhausted. The shelter wouldn’t have worked, for that matter, since it is open to the sky through a grate. They have a periscope but it doesn’t show them much except decaying buildings and occasional animals. The suspense is more psychological than physical and the eventual revelations aren’t as clever as they were probably intended to be. Pretty well done but you have to be in the right mood. 11/23/15

Arrow Season 3 Soundtrack composed by Blake Neely, Lalaland, 2015

Flash Season 1 Soundtrack composed by Blake Neely, Lalaland, 2016

Two soundtracks from television shows based on DC comic superheroes, both composed by Blake Neely. I've watched season 1 of Arrow and thought it was so-so. This selection suggests that the music, at least, gets much better. And there's a lot of it here. Two CDs, although some of the cuts are quite short. The music varies quite a bit although there are recurring themes, not surprising given its purpose. A few of these could stand alone as instrumental pieces but most lose something out of context. There are no individual bands that really stand out as exceptionally good or disappointingly minor. Lots of rousing stuff obviously reflecting action on the screen. I've not seen the latest incarnation of the Flash but the music is generally quite similar. So the same caveats apply here - there is even apparently a crossover episode. There's nothing I could detect as the overall theme of the program. The Flash seems slightly more prone to using electronic music. Both of these provide a lot of music for your money, but the music all falls into a fairly narrow range of appeal. I enjoyed it, but it will be a long time before I play the albums through again. 11/22/15

Pixels (2015)

I am definitely not an Adam Sandler fan but this looked like it might be fun and it had Peter Dinklage in it so that was a plus. Aliens misinterpret broadcast versions of classic video games as a declaration of war, so they invade the Earth using manifestations of Donkey Kong, Pac Man, etc. This causes the President to recruit a group of expert game players who are somewhat past their prime to repel the attack. Most of the funnier scenes don't have Sandler in them. No surprise there. A lot of it that is supposed to be funny isn't. The special effects are...amusing. I can think of less entertaining ways to spend my time and this had a few good moments. 11/19/15

Some Kind of Hate (2015) 

An abused teen is sent to a camp for troubled teens, but his life there is pretty much the same until he accidentally summons the spirit of young girl who was herself bullied to death. I didn’t buy the set up. The camp isn’t remotely convincing – it’s coed, the staff and facilities would not keep them from interacting, and the explanation of its mission is just silly. There is apparently no counseling, just exposure to nature – not to mention screwing one another apparently with the approval of the staff. And all of the girls are attractive and well dressed. The soundtrack didn’t help – it does nothing to generate suspense or tension and is occasionally unpleasant. The first half of the movie drags – too much time is spent setting things up.  The plot stops making any sense at all after a while and at one point becomes actively though unintentionally funny. 11/17/15

The Redwood Massacre (2014) 1784 

Yet another slasher flic, with an all too familiar set up. A group of people visit the site of a series of horrible murders on the anniversary of that event, convinced that it is all just a legend. They find out otherwise. The killer is a large man with a mask over his head. Where have I seen that before?  Some good photography of the local area is the best I can come up with. The plot is essentially non-existent, the acting subpar, the transitions awkward, and there really isn’t any suspense to speak of since we know what’s going to happen. The victims seem unusually stupid and by halfway through I was impatient for it to end. 11/16/15

Charlie’s Farm (2014)

An Australian slasher film, starring Tara Reid who was between Sharknado movies at the time. Four friends visit a remote house that was once owned by a serial killer/cannibal.  The contemporary stuff is okay but the flashback was so bad I felt sorry for the actors. Our heroes, who are only moderately unlikeable, have to walk the last few miles because the gate is locked.  They all die. Kane Hodder is impressive as the killer but the movie itself is quite routine. I did notice that the characters don’t split up to be killed off individually. This felt as though they started filming it without an end in mind and couldn't think of one. 11/15/15

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013)  

This is a very peculiar action movie/comedy, filmed in Japan and with English subtitles. The plot is a bit hard to describe but essentially it’s about an amateur film crew that gets caught in the middle of a fight to the death between two Yakuza clans. The daughter of the leader of one clan wants to be an actress, but she has run away from the film studio her father arranged for her because she didn’t think it was a good enough part. She is the link that brings the others into the conflict. The acting is hammed up to the limit, intentionally, and it’s a little difficult to follow the story for the first twenty minutes or so. The final battle scene – swords and machineguns – is over the top bloody. Probably not for every taste. 11/14/15

Evangeline (2013) 

Nothing new or original here, but a reasonable variation of the supernatural revenge movie. A college student is killed by a group of punks and an evil spirit reanimates her body so that she can exact revenge on her tormentors.  Acceptable but unexceptional acting, dialogue, and special effects, so this is watchable without being particularly memorable. The protagonist’s luck is incredibly bad. In the space of a few days she encounters three homicidal frat boys, a bizarre rapist murderer, and two more separate garden variety rapists. She starts killing them off, although for a while it’s a bit confusing about just what is happening, at the instigation of a demonic possessor. I did wonder why the demon would only be killing evil people. Seems sort of contradictory. Anyway, each time she kills, she undergoes incremental physical changes tell her she is turning into a demon herself. The plot moves a trifle slowly at times and the ending is pretty bland. 11/13/15

The Cabinet of Souls (2015)

This is inspired by R.L. Stine’s Monsterville books, which were for slightly older readers than the Goosebumps series. This one is a ripoff of Something Wicked This Way Comes, a mysterious carnival whose exhibits are not as fake as they appear to be.  For some reason cheesy overacting is almost a requirement for this sort of movie, and they fill that requirement  more than adequately. I found this rather boring and I can’t imagine even pre-teens finding it scary or entertaining. 11/12/15

Spectre (2015)

I've seen some bad reviews of this which I generally find puzzling since it's faults are largely those inherent to the Bond series and thus are inevitable - like the lack of a logical chain of events at times where short cuts are taken to keep the plot moving. Bond has received a posthumous message from the old M requesting that he track down and kill a particular man. This leads him - not quite logically - to an investigation of an international crime organization which just coincidentally has an agent in the British government who is in the process of eliminating the double O section. There's a beautiful young woman to be rescued, although she's no slouch herself, an impressively physical thug, and a pretty good villain who turns out to be someone from Bond's past. The action scenes are fast and furious, the stunts spectacular, and the end satisfying all around. 11/11/16

Stung (2015)  

An old fashioned horror movie about a party at a remote country house that is attacked by giants wasps – as large as seven feet tall. The main protagonists are the caterer and her bartender, both of whom are surprisingly enthusiastic about their roles and good enough actors to be convincing. Filmed in what appears to be a very colorful New England autumn so it is visually quit attractive, and the pacing early on is tight and effective. The real action starts quickly and with very good special effects. The phone isn’t working and there is no cell service, naturally. The physics of the wasps’ generation is nonsense, of course – you can’t generate a three foot creature from a one foot dog, but it would take too long for things to develop otherwise. 11/10/15

Sinkhole (2013)

Another evil businessman – I’m getting really tired of this shtick – is opening an environmentally unfriendly fracking operation, which results in the creation of a massive sinkhole. The opening, badly acted scene, did not bode well. Two protestors in a hot air balloon fly directly over the plant and into the updraft, causing a crash, after which the characters spend some time wandering around in slow motion while one of them dies. Jump forward to a bunch of overaged actors pretending to be high school students aboard a school bus that falls into the sinkhole. The CGI is pretty bad. Conveniently, cell phones don’t work in the area. The acting is erratic but the dialogue is generally inept. Although sinkholes have swallowed much of the commercial district and other parts of the town, there is no influx of reporters, responders, or even gawkers.  Because this has to be so much more character centered than most disaster movies, it needed strongly defined characters and better than average acting, neither of which is present. Much of the action takes place in the dark and it’s hard to follow what’s going on. Not a hit with me. 11/9/15

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

Just in case 2-Headed Shark Attack wasn’t enough for you. This is another one where a giant shark can conceal itself in water that doesn’t come up to a human waist. The acting is so bad that the witnesses to the shark attack look more bored than frightened, at least until the shark comes up onto the beach for a snack, most of its body still underwater! At another point, the giant shark leaps into the air from concealment in ankle deep water, and then plunges back out of sight, in ankle deep water. Meanwhile most of the female characters prefer to go topless at the slightest opportunity – obviously this version won’t be showing up on the Syfy Channel. The plot is almost irrelevant – lots of people get gobbled up at various locations. Decent animation given the silly premise. Most of them are complete idiots and the gene pool is probably better off without them. Most of them are trapped on an atoll, but for some reason rather than stay safely inland, they decide to try to take a small boat back to the mainland, even though the shark is circling the island.  And why, for that matter, is there only boat anchored way off shore with no way to reach it except by swimming? And why would the one chosen to swim to the boat be someone who doesn’t know how to start its engines?  The boat’s engine doesn’t work, its radio doesn’t work, and naturally no one has a cell phone. When they finally get radio communication, they talk to a fishing boat but no one else. And when the shark hits a cruise boat hard enough to throw people around and sink the boat, the papercups and other things on the tables don’t even move.  The cruise ship has no life rafts, but it would be ridiculous to abandon the ship with the shark there anyway.  And after multiple attacks, including the shark crashing onto the deck of the ship multiple times, we see the boat a short time later and there is no damage whatsoever. There is actually some very nice camera work in this, but usually in minor scenes. At one point we can clearly see the right hand of one of the characters, which was bitten off a few minutes earlier. The most common line of dialogue is “Oh, my God!”, which is probably a good review all by itself. No one made even a token effort to make this believable. I can hardly wait for 4-Headed Shark Attack – although this one ends up with five heads before the movie ends. 11/8/15

Jurassic Predator (2010)

Formerly known as Xtinction: Predator X. Several people have gone missing recently in rural Louisiana. The daughter of a missing man returns to try to find out what happened - but we already sort of know because we've seen two policemen snatched by something in the water, never to return. Unfortunately, the female lead is not convincing and the supporting cast is a mixed bag. There's the usual cavalier attitude toward police procedure and actual law, of course. The villain is a disgraced academic who tried to retro breed tigers to recreate an ancient strain. He used to be married to the protagonist, whose romantic interest now is the sheriff. None of these "native Louisianans" have a southern accent. The creature is such bad CGI that it looks like cheap stop action animation. There are a bunch of thugs who have apparently been hired to feed local people to the creature, which seems like a risky way to keep it alive. The mediocre acting early on develops into actively awful performances later, and the dialogue seems to take a step down every five minutes or so. I have nothing good to say about this one. And even in Louisiana, you cannot transfer proper ownership simply by signing the deed, without witnesses or a notarization.11/7/15

The Final Girls (2015)

A group of teens find themselves trapped inside a classic slasher film, in which one of girls meets her mother, who is slated to die. Can they change the course of the movie? The movie, complete with corny trailer, is Camp Bloodbath, "where the only marshmallow that will roast is your sanity." They are initially unwilling to interact with the characters, but Max can't resist the chance to see her dead mother again. On the other hand, everyone who has sex in the movie is killed by the masked madman. The characters, on the other hand, are puzzled by the arrival of five people who claim to be counselors but aren't on the list. They know which character is the only one to survive so they decide to stick with her, particularly after they discover that they can be killed in the movie. Unfortunately, they interfere and the final girl gets killed, which leaves Max as the only virgin. This is a very clever movie with lots of visual jokes and some exceptional sets and photography. 11/6/15

Lavalantula (2015)

A volcano erupts in Santa Monica in this Sharknado wannabe. Naturally there are giant CGI spiders in the CGI lava and they are really pissed off. A has been actor is at the center of this, along with his sarcastic wife and moody teenage son. To my surprise, some of the jokes are actually funny - perhaps because the two main characters are played by Steve Guttenberg - whom I haven't seen in years - and Nia Peeples - whom I always liked and who steals the show. The spiders breathe fire, not surprisingly. The special effects are below even normal CGI standards but the acting and even the dialogue aren't awful. It's somewhat amusing to note how they filmed this in Los Angeles while traffic was perfectly normal. Nothing out of the ordinary but considerably better than I expected. 11/5/15

Grimm Season 4 (2015) 

Nick has lost his powers and the captain is in critical condition after an assassination attempt. The assistant Grimm, Trouble, is kidnapped by a Vesen FBI agent and Adalind is imprisoned by her former allies. Trouble is released after being tempted into joining an as yet unexplained secret organization while Adalind escapes with the aid of another mystery man. Nick is ambivalent about getting his powers back but eventually – obviously – does.  Adalind’s imprisonment in Europe gets a bit tedious after awhile, and Nick’s suspicious colleague began to irritate me early in the season. The Christmas episode is rather silly. Juliette is now infected with essence of hexenbeast, Monroe and Rosalee are persecuted by wesen who oppose intermarriage, Wu finally is told the truth, Trubel leaves the show, and Nick’s mother gets killed. The rules, such as they are, change a bit. Some wesen can be seen by humans. Some ordinary humans can be turned to wesen. A couple of episodes are less than convincing, e.g., the chupacabra.  The transparently Nazi secret society didn’t do much for me either. And if Nick can see Vesen even when they don’t want to be seen, how does he miss the police officer who works in his precinct? Changing Nick’s girlfriend into a hexen witch worked much better although revealing it to Nick is drawn out a bit too long. It’s a bit hard to believe that he wouldn’t suspect anything when she singlehandedly overcomes and kills a mantichore. When he does find out, his reaction is not consistent with his character.  There is a flurry of creatures whose touch is fatal or nearly so toward the end of the season that becomes a bit monotonous.  There’s a good deal of magic doubletalk – mysterious formulas that solve problems – which is one of the persistent problems in fantasy in general. A solid if undistinguished season although Juliet's rampage was unconvincing. The final episode contains a couple of shockers.11/2/15

Goosebumps Three Pack

Eight more installments of the Goosebumps television series for younger viewers. "Say Cheese and Die" and its sequel are about a camera that takes pictures of the future. There also two stories about a ventriloquist's doll that comes  to life when no one is looking. Both of these actually have some mildly creepy moments, but the stories themselves are very trite. There is a lot of silliness as well, most of it unnecessary. The other stories include monster blood that regrows its body, a monster living in an attic, and yet another that masquerades as a librarian. Not much here for adult viewers, but I imagine they're fun for the younger set. 10/31/15

The Blob That Ate Everyone (1997)

Go Eat Worms (1996)

Two installments of the Goosebumps horror series for young kids. They don't pay much attention to actually reflecting how things work in the real world, which annoys me in kids' books because I think it insults them.  Some of the kids can act, most can't. Cheap special effects. Despite all that, they're mildly amusing though pretty simple minded. Anyway, the first one involves a typewriter that creates the things typed on it. Through a convoluted process, someone starts a story about a blob monster and it appears to menace the good kids (and eat the nasty one). In the second, a boy obsessed with worms arouses their ire and they start interfering in his life - showing up in his lunch, etc. He thinks his sister is responsible so he decides to get even, but the worms have a different idea. There are a few other episodes included but they're much the same.10/30/15

After Earth (2013)

There is so much nonsense in the first few minutes of this movie that I nearly turned it off. It is not possible to evacuate Earth with a handful of spaceships. Even if it was, how could the population exist on a planet that consists of a large desert without forests, oceans, or anything else? There are also aliens who attack using constructed monsters that home on human fear. Nice special effects, bad story. And Will Smith's son should consider a career other than acting. He plays the son of a war hero who never feels fear and is therefore invisible to the monsters. The dialogue is inane and the society never really manifests itself. They have spaceships and super cities, but they fight the monsters with swords - no firearms. Father and son are traveling between planets when they crash on Earth, which turns out to be habitable after all, and the father is injured. Boy has to become a man if they are to survive. Bad, boring, silly, and illogical. 10/28/15

Final Girl (2015)

A teenage girl is trained in various martial arts as part of a plan by her mentor to get revenge on four young men who have been killing women. We never learn why he didn't go to the police. The first part of the film is her rather unorthodox training. Then she sets herself up as bait and they bite - more than they can chew as it turns out. The dialogue and character interaction is very artificial - deliberately I'm sure - and slightly offputting - probably not so deliberately. The cast generally looks much too old for the parts they are planning but that's the norm rather than the exception. Anyway, she manages to slip a drug into their drink early on, which seems illogical. If that was the plan, why not use poison instead of just something to mess with their heads? And she doesn't seem all that good at the martial arts either? There is one scene where she seems to be aware of the hallucination one of the boys is seeing, which doesn't make sense. And how did the final one know that the other three were tripping when that only happened when he wasn't around. And if her mentor was there all the time, why didn't he help? A very odd movie. 10/24/15

Last Shift (2014)

A rookie cop is spending a night shift at a police station that is about to be closed, so she is the only one in the building. It is evident almost immediately that something is wrong. She receives a distress call even though the phones are not supposed to be active. She hears people moving in the building although she's supposedly alone. Although this is pretty well done, it's one of those movies where a lot of what is happening is hallucination and there's no clear rationale for what's happening, either during or at the end of the movie. I find that sort of thing irritating and not entertaining at all, particularly when you can't tell what is real and what is not. There are also a couple of scenes where things are obviously not logically possible and the protagonist decides it is all a practical joke, which is clearly not true. The actress who is essentially the entire movie does a very good job, however, and it's a shame she didn't have better material to work with. Very unsatisfactory ending.10/23/15

Extinction (2015)  

The zombie apocalypse has depopulated the world. Years later, two men and a young girl survive in a snowbound town where they have not seen a zombie for years.  Although they live together, the two men are not on speaking terms for reasons not initially obvious. Much of the movie is about this conflict, whose cause is slowly revealed, and the zombies don’t reappear except briefly until quite late. Then we discover that they have evolved and adapted to their environment and are more dangerous than ever. Although the pace could have been a little faster, it’s otherwise very well done and a pleasant variation from the usual formula. It’s also a bit of a coincidence that they would finally establish radio contact within hours of the sighting of a new zombie, and I don’t see how they would have evolved to become blind and sound sensitive. One of them – Matthew Fox – is approaching madness, hearing voices. The young actress is quite convincing. I'm not sure what the title has to do with the story, and it should not be confused with last year's bad dinosaur movie of the same name. 10/21/15

An American Terror (2014)  

It’s obnoxious jocks vs nerds in the opening sequences of this low budget horror movie. After severe provocation, the jocks plan their revenge for homecoming weekend. They decide to steal a gun from an unsavory character who runs a junkyard and find the entrance to an underground warren. They get trapped along with a captive cheerleader. The killer becomes ludicrous rather than scary. He makes love to a doll while watching Woody Woodpecker and wears a funny costume. The two teens trapped in the tunnel go to sleep rather than escape and the killer finds one intruder but doesn’t look for others.  The teens also talk in a loud voice to each other even when they’re being hunted, and when they knock out the killer, they don’t make sure he’s dead – twice. And when they escape, they don’t go to the police.  Not awful, but frequently annoying. 10/20/16

Modern Family Season 6 (2014) 

Although the opening episode was rather weak and sometimes over the top, this comedy series steadies down after that. Although it doesn’t really try anything new there are several very good episodes, or rather sequences within episodes – like Lily’s new playmate with the high IQ and the confusion about Haley’s fake romance. The Thanksgiving episode is one of the few that is consistently very funny throughout. The writers seem to be repeating themselves - the older women taking Haley to a bar, the role playing game on Valentine's Day, etc.  Lily continues to be an accomplished scene stealer - the clown scenes are very funny - and I thought Haley and Manny both had their best season so far. The episode shown entirely on Claire's laptop was clever but not particularly funny. Overall, not their best season, but not their weakest either, and there are some genuinely funny moments in every episode.10/19/15

Earthfall (2015) 

Unbelievably bad science as a rogue planet enters the solar system without anyone noticing until it causes meteor showers on Earth – also undetected. It also pulls the Earth out of orbit, resulting in very little damage except in selected scenic places. There are no windstorms, no changes of gravity or temperature, and the sky looks unchanged. The acting is subpar, the dialogue nearly subterranean. A mission is initiated to blow the Earth back into orbit while various characters wander around trying to figure out why they signed on to this turkey. If it wasn’t so boring, it might be funny. 10/18/15

The Gallows (2015)  

A high school drama class decides to remake a play during which a student was accidentally hanged twenty years earlier. First of all, this is found footage, so it would have to be extraordinary to be watchable. It’s extraordinarily bad, but that doesn’t count. Second, no school district would ever allow this to happen given that the family of the dead boy is almost certainly still alive. Anyway, three students decide to sabotage the production by sneaking into the school to damage the set, and discover that something is waiting for them. Bad sound, bad picture, bad dialogue, bad special effects, bad acting – at least they’re consistent. Not worth your time. 10/17/15

Dead Rising (2015)

This is a zombie movie based on a video game, so I wasn’t expecting much. There’s nothing really new, but at least it is done reasonably well, with competent acting and no gaping breaches of logic. The plague breaks out in a mythical Oregon city and rapidly spreads, turning each victim into another killer. At times it seems to be a parody, but not consistently. The zombie clown is really creepy. Most of the characters are trapped inside a quarantine zone and must escape before the army firebombs the entire area. The evil army has provoked the outbreak for their own purposes. The foiling of their plot is implied at the end but not demonstrated.  I actually liked this one, which is rare for the zombie genre. 10/16/15

Dark Moon Rising (2015)   

The werewolves in this cheapie are CGI, and not done very well. The opening sequence is so dark that I had no idea at all what was going on. The pack is searching for a woman supposedly born every 2000 years who holds the key to their survival, but there are two of them this time – who knows why? – and this could make them able to conquer the human race. Werewolves apparently are compelled to speak in exaggeratedly formal prose often inappropriate to the situation. And this is reportedly first in a trilogy. The plot makes absolutely no sense. I even went to the Internet Movie Database to see if someone could explain it to me – there is teleportation and gypsies and magic and maybe they’re not even werewolves and the awful soundtrack is so loud I couldn’t sit near the tv but if I turned it down I couldn’t hear the dialogue. Maybe that was a plus. And the ratings on IMDB have clearly been hacked because it had hundreds of five star reviews before it was even available. 10/15/15

Spring (2014) 

After the death of his mother, a young man gets involved in a bar fight and decides it is time for a change of scenery, so he goes off to backpack in Europe.  He meets a somewhat enigmatic girl and they become romantically involved, and at first everything seems to be working out for him at last. But the girl isn’t what she appears to be, in fact she’s not even human any longer. She has to keep taking injections, sacrifice animals, drink blood, etc. in order to remain alive as she has for two thousand years. The only real problem I saw with the plot is that if she has already lived this way for more than a millennium, I would have thought she would have arranged things better than she has. There’s a very strong Lovecraftian strain in this, although not handled in a typical fashion. Technically, this is SF rather than horror, although the science is very questionable. There is a subtle implication that she is the “dead” wife of the farmer for whom the protagonist is working. The ending is a bit drawn out but otherwise it’s highly recommended. 10/15/15

Tremors 5 (2015) 1732 

I loved the first movie in this series and enjoyed both of its sequels and the prequel. The television show, not so much. Michael Gross is the only one who has been in all of the movies and while he’s showing his age, he still handles the plot well. All the previous movies were set in North America, but this time Bert Gummer is contacted by the South African government because some of the creatures have been spotted there. There is more CGI than usual, but it’s pretty well done and the new version of the ass blaster is much more impressive.  This was good enough that I’m surprised it didn’t have a theatrical release. It’s a good old fashioned monster movie with pretty good monsters. There's nothing new in the plot - they have to destroy a cache of eggs - but it's a fun plot however familiar it might be. 10/14/15

Sharknado 3 (2015)

This campy disaster flick really doesn't have anything to say that wasn't said in the first two - the first one for that matter. The jokes are repetitious and pretty lame. A movie like Airplane can be silly and witty and keep us laughing even the second time through. This is merely silly without any real thought going into it, and the plot - tornadoes that send sharks flying through the air - isn't any better with a bigger budget. There is a certain amount of fun looking for cameos - Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Robert Klein, Al Roper, etc. - but even that palls after a while. And given the extra money they had for this one, how come the picture is so fuzzy most of the time? 10/13/15

Castle Season 1 (2009) 1667 

An arrogant but likeable mystery writer is recruited to help the police when a serial killer begins imitating the deaths in his books. He decides to base his new detective on his real time female partner and convinces the police to let him follow her on a number of cases, despite her initial reluctance. The pilot episode is exceptional and the next few are nearly as good. Nice chemistry between the two leads and fairly interesting mysteries with several surprises and for a change one of them doesn't even involve a murder. The supporting cast – the writer’s mother and daughter and miscellaneous police officials – all do a good job. The formula is there – mystery with red herring solution halfway through – but most of the episodes kept me guessing. This was a short season – only ten episodes – but I can see why it was renewed. 10/12/15

Pod (2015)

The first five minutes of this movie aren't bad at all, but unfortunately I watched the rest of it. Two brothers and a sister make up a dysfunctional family. One of the brothers lives in a remote cabin and the other two believe that he is losing his sanity. He insists that there is something sinister going on. This might have been the basis for a good, low key horror/suspense movie. Instead of developing the plot or situation, however, the script consists of endless bickering among the threesome, interspersed with some not very effective moments of success. It runs steadily downhill and if it wasn't for all the shouting I might have fallen asleep before the end. It has nice packaging but the people responsible seem to have forgotten that if you don't have an interesting story to tell, there is no point in telling it. 10/11/15

South Park Season 17 (2103)  

This was an improvement over the previous season, starting with the opening episode about government surveillance. The second episode pokes fun at television murder shows and the cable television industry.  The spoof of World War Z is very funny, as is the Goth/Emo sequence. The bit about Kyle’s kid brother, on the other hand, was boring, as was the ginger cow. The three part Game of Throne episode is okay but not really much about the source material. Kenny becomes a hentai princess and George R.R. Martin intercedes personally, sort of. Interspersing real shoplifted fighting with the animated version was cute. The final episode about self image is also well done. This was a good season with only a couple of subpar stories.10/10/15

Navy Seals vs Zombies (2015)

The opening sequences of this zombie movie pretty much said it all. A squad of Navy Seals – who are middle aged and overweight and not remotely convincing – are sent into a Baton Rouge that has suddenly gone silent, unaware that zombies have taken over. They drop from a helicopter firing wildly around, even though there are no targets, and he must not have been a very popular VP if they only sent five rescuers who seem to wander through the city randomly. The flashback to Afghanistan was so silly I thought it was meant as comic relief, but it’s supposed to be high drama. The acting is so bad they could have done just as well taking randomly people off the street. The macho conversations are so bad they are embarrassing. After the first couple of minutes we have a flashback in which nothing happens that consumes half the movie. The plot makes no sense – why send Seals anyway? – and the writers clearly new next to nothing about how the military operates. This was a waste of 90 minutes – or would have been if I hadn’t fast forwarded through a lot of it. 10/8/15

Arrow Season 1 (2013)

I blinked very early in the first episode when the protagonist’s mother announces that she has remarried even though her husband was missing, not declared dead, for only five years. I believe you have to wait seven years. And why would the police assign a detective to investigate a crime against the man he considers responsible for the death of his daughter? Oliver Queen was marooned on an island for five years where his dying father told him about a secret criminal conspiracy in their home, Starling City. Queen has well developed survival skills and is a brilliant archer – he’s the Green Arrow from the comic books, slight reinvented. He establishes a secret headquarters, a totally inadequate costume, and sets out to bring down the crime lord. The writers aren’t consistent. The bodyguard’s opinion of Queen changes dramatically and without reason from one episode to the next. Several plots only work because the hero makes gigantic leaps of logic and always reaches the right conclusion. And the dialogue frequently becomes actively corny, which seems to be common in the DC world. Episode five is ludicrous – there is no evidence at all supporting the murder charge for which Queen is arrested.  Multiple instances of bad writing follow, including gangsters who demand protection money but without advance warning so that obviously no one could pay. There are a couple of interesting surprises during the course of the season, but they can’t balance the lack of continuity and realism. When Queen tells the daughter of a mob boss that her vendetta is different than his, he is absolutely wrong. There’s also a dreadful lack of computer savvy. Much of the romantic angst is so contrived that it borders on being funny. There is bad writing in almost every episode. For example, three armored cars have been robbed in the same fashion, but none of the other companies in the city take any precautions to prevent a recurrence?  The sequence in which a judge makes an openly political statement with regard to a criminal case is absolute nonsense. He even states outright that he is predisposed to find her guilty. Arrow’s sister’s attitude toward her mother is wildly inconsistent from one episode to the next. By the end of season, at least four other characters know his secret identity. There’s also some hypocrisy. Queen is always unhappy when anyone else adopts the very same tactics he is using. And how can there be a functioning subway system under the city that no one knows about? I could go on and on but you get the idea. 10/7/15

The Canal (2014)

A film archivist discovers that his wife is having an affair, which is obviously upsetting. He also learns that the house where they live was once the setting for a particularly brutal murder. When his wife disappears, the police are pardonably suspicious that he has done away with her, but he is convinced - or is he crazy? - that something supernatural was involved. This is an Australian and none of the names were familiar to me, but the acting is excellent and the story, though relatively low key for the most part, quietly snags the viewer and doesn't let go. Without any fancy special effects it manages to generate a pretty creepy atmosphere although I found the protagonist rather difficult to sympathize with, particularly since he seems to almost consciously avoid doing anything that would prove that he is sane, or that would safeguard his son. 10/6/15

Kingdom Come (2014)  

A group of people wake up confined in an abandoned hospital with no exits. We know that at least one of them was in a serious automobile accident so the early assumption is that they are all dead. They each have to face some sin from their pasts and something nasty is prowling outside the building. They supposedly separate into two groups for fifteen minutes, but one group is delayed at a blocked corridor for at least that long. Time and space don’t seem to work right, intentionally, and phantom figures appear from time to time. Naturally the end up going off alone despite their intention not to do so. There’s not much subtle and it gets repetitive after a while and the creatures are corny, particularly the devil himself. 10/5/15

Paranormal Island (2014)

I started to lose interest almost immediately when one man commits suicide after losing his ownership of a bar in a poker game. That’s not implausible in itself, but the winner would never have been able to collect since the loser wasn’t alive to sign the papers. The ghost of the dead man then decides to kill anyone who works at the bar, for reasons never made remotely clear. Oh, in the poker game, he loses with a flush to a man with a straight. Obviously the writer didn’t play poker. Anyway, a typically obnoxious group of young people are starting work as bartenders at the bar – which is on an island – and they don’t pay attention to the warning to leave before midnight. Too dark, bad special effects, predictable story, illogical plot, okay acting. 10/4/15

Avenged (2013)  

This is a kind of zombie version of I Spit on Your Grave. A deaf mute woman tries to intercede to protect a man from a bunch of thugs and gets mortally wounded. A native American shaman tries to use magic to restore her to full life, but she gets possessed by the spirit of an apache warrior and sets out to track down the men who attacked her. But she’s dead and her body is rotting away at the same time. This was better than I expected despite the oddly color drained photography and occasional bad sound. I had low expectations going into this, and it’s not that great a movie, but it’s a lot better than I expected.  Definitely not for the squeamish, however. 10/3/15

[Rec] 4 (2014)

I do not like found footage movies. That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, which actually figured out how to use the format without simply appearing cheap and amateurish. It's about a zombie plague, which makes it even more unlikely that I would actually like it, and it has subtitles. This one isn't found footage, but it still uses a shaky style of photography that looks spontaneous. The first three movies all take place inside a building where the virus has broken out and infected virtually everyone inside. The fourth opens with the building surrounded by the military, who unwisely send a team inside. One survivor is taken to quarantine on a tanker. The survivor breaks loose - it's not clear why since she was being treated well - but there's no place to go and she is recaptured. Some of the people aboard suspect that they are not being told the entire truth. When an infected monkey escapes, everyone aboard is at risk. The plot isn't anything special, but it's handled with actual skill for a change. There is a really nice twist, but it does on for a bit too long. The creepiest series of movies I have ever seen are the Blind Dead series, also from Spain. That country seems to have a real talent for the genre despite some early cheapos that are no more than amusing today.

Elementary Season 3 

Holmes is back from London with a new protégé, and he’s trying to patch things up with Watson as well. The new protégé is a rape survivor with issues. The early episodes are up to its usual quality with lots of reversals and surprises, although I thought the one about the guy who dissolves bodies and leaves a nutmeg smell behind was less well done. The bit where Captain Brass assaults another officer who abused his fellow officer daughter felt awkward, although it was finished off nicely. The episode about illegal drug trials was also pretty dull.  The cloned orchid episode is very bad. If you have the last example of a plant, and you clone it and create more of the same plant, the new ones are not “fakes”. They are every bit as genuine as the first one. His new protégé, Kitty, leaves half way through the season after mutilating the man who raped and tortured her before she met Sherlock. With only occasional lapses, the writing in this series remains at a very high level, the mysteries are clever if slightly formulaic in delivery, and the characters are developing nicely over time. 9/27/15

Sleepy Hollow Season 1 (2013)

Ichabod Crane is resurrected in the town of Sleepy Hollow, but in the present. . Unfortunately, the Headless Horseman is also brought back to life. Crane’s reactions to modern developments are done pretty well. There are some minor problems right away. The police send Crane to an asylum, even though he has committed no crime, is perfectly functional, and has made no violent threats or actions. There are legal and police procedural goofs regularly in later episodes.  The institutionalized sister, for example, would never have been held for years given that she is completely normal other than believing that she saw a demon. The spirit of Crane’s dead wife explains that someone has revived the Horseman who is searching for his head in order to end the world. And the body of one of the dead policemen gets up and walks away, but no one ever mentions the missing corpse. A succession of monstrous servants appear in subsequent episodes - a witch, the sandman, etc. When a non-violent and probably falsely imprisoned mental patient escapes, the police would not issue a nationwide alert. This subplot becomes particularly senseless when we learn that the sister was secretly working for the sheriff who died in episode one. Her timeline doesn’t work either. She was just a teenager when she was locked up.  And if Abby was the dead sheriff’s protégé, how come she didn’t know where he lived?  And why is he still wearing the same clothes for the entire season?  Nor did they speak Middle English at the Roanoke colony in Virginia. The season settles down a little at the half way point although I found the origin story for the Horseman a bit hokey. The tree creature in episode nine is pretty neat. For much of the season we have been told that Crane’s wife was a witch in a good coven opposed to the evil one, but in episode ten the writers forget that and her coven is evil. The writing seemed to decline toward the end of the season as well. There are also signs that the writers lacked direction - they started introducing subplots about the police captain's marital problems, etc. The finale ends with the police captain confessing to murder to avoid attention to his daughter, but despite what the other detectives say, the presence of her DNA at a crime scene where she is already known to have been present is not remotely enough to make an arrest. Interesting concept for a a series, but severely hobbled by bad writing. 9/20/15

Treehouse (2014)

A teenager comes home to find her parents have gone out of town and her little brother is missing, apparently taken by a mysterious figure she sees in the nearby woods. She disappears as well and the town is locked down, but two boys decide to go look for her. They find her in a mysterious treehouse deep in the woods. Although not a great movie by any means, the acting is competent, the photography is nicely done, and at least there is an attempt to come up with an original idea. My only technical complaint is that the soundtrack is so soft I had to crank the volume up to the maximum and still had trouble hearing some of the dialogue. That said, there is not much story following the okay opening. The three teens discover that there are psychopathic killers living in the area - whom the police have never found despite the fact that they have been killing people for years - and what should then be a tense series of encounters devolves into long, boring scenes. Among other things, why is the girl hiding in the treehouse rather than going back to town, which is only a few minutes walk away? One of the two boys somehow already knows why she's in the woods, even though no one could possibly know. Obviously someone had an idea for the set up, but no idea at all how to follow through. The ending is infuriatingly incomplete. 9/17/15

Fury Road (2015)

Latest in the Mad Max post-apocalyptic series. For such a mangled society, they sure seem to come up with a lot of gasoline to fuel their vehicles. The opening few minutes are perhaps a bit too hectic too soon, but the special effects and photography are spectacular. A female warrior kidnaps her warlord's concubines and heads toward presumed freedom beyond the desert. One of the prisoners among the pursuers is Max, who escapes in the chaos. Despite Max's reluctance, they join forces, pursued by the horde. Most of the story is the chase, punctuated by battle sequences. Fun to watch but not for the acting. 8/10/15

Exeter (2015)  

No surprises in this plot. A group of teenagers party in an abandoned asylum until one of them is possessed by a demon. And then things really start to go wrong. They call a priest for help but the situation escalates before he gets there and the first man dies, after which the priest is accidentally killed. They try to leave but all the doors and windows lock, so they decide to try their own exorcism, downloading the procedure from the internet. At first it seems to have succeeded, but in fact it has just released an even greater evil. Derivative and cliché ridden, but the acting is actually convincing for a change and there are genuinely suspenseful sequences.  There are even a couple of witty lines and the surprise ending surprised me. 9/9/15

Blood Moon (2014) 

In this weird western, a stagecoach runs into two desperate bank robbers, but before that conflict can resolve itself, they all run into trouble with a bloodthirsty shapeshifter/werewolf. The acting varies from substandard to okay, but the dialogue and parts of the plot are at times so unrealistic or awkward or both that not even good acting could have saved the day. That said, the story is at least interesting enough that I kept watching and some of the dialogue is much better than the rest.  The monster is sometimes CGI, of course, but minimally so and is not on screen long enough to become obviously fake. The average quality of direct to video horror movies is so low that this actually seemed reasonably good. 9/8/15

Army of Frankensteins (2013)   

This is such a stupid movie that even the really dumb acting and even dumber dialogue almost don’t matter. An experiment to reanimate a corpse somehow opens a time bridge to the Civil War. Huh? It also opens a portal to an alternate universe in which the entire population consists of copies of the monster. Double huh?  There must have been a special at Walmart for fake beards and moustaches. Some of the actors seem to be intentionally camping it up and the rest are just clueless. Appallingly bad, and the second half felt endless. I think this was supposed to be funny, but it isn’t. 9/7/15

Harbinger Down (2015)

The story opens with a manned Soviet space capsule crashing in the Arctic during the 1980s, then jumps to the present.  The visually satisfactory opening promptly gives way to some pretty bad found footage and I began to have bad feelings. Fortunately, it switches back to normal camera work fairly quickly. A group of college students charter a crabbing boat to allow them to study a pod of beluga whales. Lance Henriksen is as competent as he can be with such a mediocre script. He’s the captain.  Anyway, they recover a frozen chunk of the capsule and find a preserved cosmonaut inside. The head of the science team is too much of an idiot to be believable – it is quite obvious that the university would not have any claim on the capsule. Very quickly we learn that aliens – amoebalike and not very impressive – have also thawed out. The byplay with the nasty faculty member is so stupid that it undermines what might otherwise have been a minor but competent movie. Even the special effects seem tepid. The ending, which involves one of the crew members admitting she is a Russian spy, is so silly it defies description. It's as though the people making this film were completely unaware of what makes things scary.9/6/15

Lost After Dark (2014)  

This was an attempt to replicate the feel of the 1980s slasher movie. The set up and plot are typical. A group of high school kids – played by actors far too old for the part – sneak away from a dance, break down on a dark, unfrequented road, and get hacked to death by a cannibalistic killer. It’s even set in the 1980s, though not very convincingly. The nerd and the token black guy are also present. Robert Patrick eats the scenery while the rest of the cast stumbles through, pretending to act. As usual, there is insufficient character development, but at least this time most of the characters aren’t actively unappealing. The teens get stranded when their bus breaks down, and they break into an apparently deserted house, which never makes sense to me. The story proceeds predictably, but frankly it never really becomes either interesting or even suspenseful. 9/5/15

Avalanche Sharks (2013)

Did you know that there was a kind of prehistoric alien shark that swam through snow rather than water? No? Neither did I until I saw this masterpiece of movie making, whose CGI effects are even bad for CGI movie effects. This wasn't intended to be taken seriously, so I suppose that doesn't matter. At a ski resort, the guests are starting to disappear, gobbled up by a shark that travels through the snow (and somehow manages to submerge in knee high snow even though it's the size of a small truck. Naturally the guests are heavily front loaded with attractive young women who feel compelled to walk around in bikinis whenever possible. Unfortunately, they run out of jokes early and as a serious movie, this couldn't even qualify as an inept attempt. Leaden acting and dumb lines complete the disaster. People actually get paid to do things like this? I think sharks should bring a class action lawsuit against the people responsible. 9/3/15

Snowpiercer (2013) 

The trailer for this looked interesting and it was cheap so I decided to pick it up. After a new ice age overwhelms the world, the only surviving humans are aboard a train that is in perpetual motion. The train becomes a microcosm of human society with the lowest classes at the end and the aristocracy at the forefront. This is really a fantasy, not SF, because there is no real attempt at plausibility. Unfortunately for the aristocrats, there is a revolution brewing. Unfortunately, the villains are so exaggerated that it loses a lot of its potential effect. The symbolism gets somewhat heavy handed at times, but it’s overall an interesting movie. 9/1/15